Standards Keep Your Alarm Panels Under Control

The security industry, especially its technology, has come a long way the past 20 to 30 years, and yet it’s been said time after time that the false alarm problem continues to grow. With all of the high-tech capabilities and feature sets built into today’s systems, you’d expect false alarms to be a thing of the past — but unfortunately they are not. 

With municipalities and others imposing heavy fines and adopting a no-response policy to reduce the number of false alarm calls their police officers run on, the security industry must do something to reduce and eventually stop the problem. Given this scenario, it would seem reasonable to hold manufacturers and installers to a higher level of accountability through the creation and implementation of sensible standards. Indeed, this has transpired, but the drive toward standardization has only recently begun to take hold. 

In 1994, the Security Industry Association (SIA) launched an initiative to develop a unified alarm control panel standard titled “Control Panel Standard —Features for False Alarm Reduction,” also referred to as CP-01. The intention of CP-01 was to provide manufacturers with a specific set of guidelines designed to make their alarm panels more user-friendly and false alarm resistant. 

“CP-01 is the most significant, industry-wide effort to address false alarm issues. This is particularly important as a defense against the trend of nonresponse in some municipalities,” says Tom Mechler, product marketing manager for Bosch Security Systems of Fairport, N.Y. “CP-01 has been an effective measure as an alternative to nonresponse in many cases.” 

More recently, another attempt to reduce false alarms while improving overall security came to fruition in 2005. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) developed what has come to be known as the “Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems,” also known as NFPA 731. A significant portion of the standard applies to the application of alarm control panels. 

Everyone in the intrusion alarm business, from manufacturer to distributor to installer, needs to be familiar with these standards and the key elements as they pertain to today’s control panels and attached devices. The hope is that, through working in unison to uphold and deploy these standards, false alarms will be reduced, the end-user experience will be improved and law enforcement will place more urgency on alarm calls. 

CP-01 Is a False Alarm Standard Designed to Minimize User Error
There is very little doubt that SIA intended the CP-01 standard as a false alarm prevention tool. “The primary mission of the CP-01 standard appears to be the reduction in the incidence of false alarms with the primary focus in the area of arming, disarming and code entry,” confirms Tom Karl, director of sales with NAPCO Security Group of Amityville, N.Y. 

Almost all of the prescribed elements contained within CP-01 amount to a series of precautions intended to aid the end user in the proper use of his or her alarm system. This includes the procedures used in reporting an alarm to the central monitoring station. 

“We’ve studied false alarms for 20 to 25 years now. STAT Resources, for one, has analyzed the issue extensively,” says Stan Martin, executive director with the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC). “And so we’ve known for years that customer error is the No. 1 cause of false alarms.” 

According to Mechler, “In addition to false alarm reduction, CP-01 provides a uniform way to disarm systems from all CP-01 compliant manufacturers. This makes it easier for end users to learn how to interact with their systems, reducing confusion and ultimately adding value for the end user.” 

Since its inception, SIA’s CP-01 standard has become an ANSI standard, referred to as ANSI/SIA CP-01-200X (X indicates the exact year of revision). According to Mechler, “ANSI’s CP-01 Control Panel Standard is the industry benchmark for false alarm reduction and was created in cooperation with industry associations and control panel manufacturers.” 

‘Entry Delay’ Generates the Most False Alarms Among Users
Experienced alarm technicians will undoubtedly agree, the most notable problems end users have is when they arm and disarm their alarm system. Probably the most significant portion of the process occurs during entry delays. 

“The scope of the SIA CP-01 standard details ‘recommended design features for security system control panels and their associated arming and disarming devices to reduce the incidence of false alarms.’ NFPA also recognizes that the current arming and disarming methods, including the associated delays, have inherent flaws that are the leading contributors for the false alarm problem,” says Karl. 

To address the issue, CP-01 calls for a minimum 30-second delay on entry. According to the standard, the maximum allowable delay is 4 minutes. “Programmable Entry Delays shall be included. The programmable range for all Entry Delays shall be from thirty (30) seconds to at least four (4) minutes. The control panel default setting for all Entry Delays shall be thirty (30) seconds” (Section 4.2.3.1). 

“The 30 seconds we say should be minimum and for a good reason. I don’t think everyone recognizes the fact we have elderly people out there who need more time when entering the home,” says Martin. “We also have folks who have children, bags of groceries in their arms, screaming babies … there are all sorts of things to interfere with the process of entering a valid code.” 

To solve this problem, NAPCO went a step further. According to Karl, “Our Freedom 64 solves this problem by eliminating entry delays, exit delays and code entry altogether.” Karl says that eliminating entry and exit delays essentially removes any chance of the end user creating a false alarm. 

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